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English Premier League: three talking points

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

12-04-2015 14:24 BJT

By Colin Robinson, CNTV Sports Commentator

Welcome to EPL3TP, where we break down three talking points to keep you clued in when talking football. This week, while the smog has diminished in Beijing, dark clouds are forming overhead for a few PL managers, the race to the league championship remains as blurry as ever, and the sky is the limit for record-breaking Jamie Vardy.

 

Pressure increases for struggling managers

We've reached the point of the season where firing a manager is no longer a move borne out of panic, frustration or anger. Reality sets in and dear readers, it looks bleak: Either the manager can’t make any progress, or directors must admit they hired the wrong man for the job.

The board of Newcastle United finds itself in the latter position after the team suffered an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday. Manager Steve McClaren was supposed to revive the fortunes of a club that finished 15th last season, and despite getting 50 million pounds (about US$75 million) in spending money to improve the squad, he has driven his team down to one spot from the bottom.

Newcastle began the season with mixed results before things took a turn for the worse. Their defensive problems were exposed in a 6-1 defeat to Manchester City, the start of a run of conceding 19 goals in seven games. To make matters worse, only West Brom, Stoke and bottom-placed Aston Villa have scored fewer times.

Talk of firing McClaren after just 14 games may seem harsh, and he may get a few more matches to show whether he can turn things around, but patience runs scarce in the Premier League. With more than 19 years in charge of Arsenal, the longest-serving PL manager, Arsène Wenger, is an outlier. Behind him is Mark Hughes, who has been with Stoke since May 2013. And he never seems more than a run of poor results away from getting the sack.

Few managers are safe. A few months ago, Garry Monk was touted as a future England national team coach, but rumors have swirled recently that he will be sacked as his team hovers just above the relegation zone. But the biggest question is whether managerial legend José Mourinho stays immune. While Chelsea won the league title last season—his third with the club—he is now third-favorite to be the next manager to leave his post as his side toils away in 14th place.

Tis the season to be jolly, but don't expect much goodwill to come from PL boardrooms. For hard-nosed executives who lurk there, it is time for them to be ruthless.

Chelsea's decline adds intrigue to title race

At this point last season, Chelsea was top of the league by six points, having scored the most goals and conceding the second-fewest. Pundits were already questioning where the team ranked among the all-time greats. Even at that early stage, it felt inevitable that the Premier League trophy would be heading to Southwest London. And no one was surprised when Chelsea secured the championship with several games to spare.

This term, after a series of bewilderingly poor results, Chelsea is stuck in the bottom half of the table, with key players such as Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, struggling for form. Accordingly, the race to the title is much more compelling now.

None of Chelsea's rivals have capitalized. The top spots are closely contested with six points separating first place Manchester City and sixth place Liverpool. Man City and Leicester are tied on points at the top; Manchester United is a point behind, with Arsenal and Tottenham trailing closely.

With all teams at the top looking fallible, even Liverpool, with five teams ahead of it, can't be ruled out of contention. Since Jürgen Klopp took over in October, the Merseyside club has climbed the table in a resurgent run, demonstrating an ability to compete with the league's elite by thrashing Man City 4-1.

With such a compelling and unpredictable title race unfolding, it's difficult not to find some joy in Chelsea's suffering.

Vardy has more goals on his mind after breaking scoring record

With his goal against Manchester United, the once-unknown, now-super-striker Jamie Vardy scored in his 11th consecutive Premier League game, breaking the record set by Ruud Van Nistelrooy in 2003. Where does the Leicester forward go from here?

There are a couple of other goal-scoring records that he might have his eye on. Way back in the 1950-51 season, Stan Mortensen scored in 15 straight games in the English First Division for Blackpool, though his run was interrupted by games he missed through injury. Beforehand, Jimmy Dunne scored 18 goals for Sheffield United in 12 consecutive games in 1931-32.

He could also build a great legacy with his plans to set up an academy for semi-professional players to help them follow in his footsteps and achieve their dreams of going pro. Yet they would have to be someone special to match Vardy's accomplishments. His rapid ascent from non-league obscurity to PL record-breaker is so remarkable that it has caught the attention of a Hollywood scriptwriter who wants to make a movie about it.

With so much hype, Vardy must be sky high on confidence now, but nothing in this league is easy. After a game against a Swansea team battling to stay above the drop zone and fighting for its manager's future, he will come up against some of the division’s toughest defenses. If they don't stop him, it's hard to see who will.

 

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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